As football rivalries go in Livingston County, Brighton-Howell gets most of the attention.
But when it comes to a pair of schools giving each other no quarter, Howell-Hartland is right up there.
“These kids know each other, play against each other in other sports and compete now in high school,” Hartland coach Brian Savage said. “It’s a fun game and proximity makes it a true rivalry.”
“It’s always fun, the battle of M-59,” Howell senior Matt Sussalla said. “It’s always a hardheaded battle between the two Hs. It’s been that way since junior football. We’ve always had a rivalry with them.”
Tonight’s game marks the beginning of the KLAA West Division schedule for both teams, and it will be broadcast on The Livingston Post at 6:50 p.m.
The teams come in with very different perspectives after the first third of the season. Howell is 2-1 after last week’s close loss to Livonia Churchill, while Hartland is 0-3 for the first time in two decades.
“We took one on the chin last week, but all of our goals are still right in front of us,” Howell coach Aaron Metz said. “Our goals are to win the division, win the conference, get into the playoffs and make some things happen. We have to learn from what happened last week and make it happen now.”
Metz could have been saying the same thing about the Eagles, who could repeat as division champions and make the playoffs by running the table.
Savage, for his part, has gone with a formula that has worked in the past: Worrying about this week only.
“Howell’s on the schedule this week, and that’s the most important game on the schedule,” he said. “Our season is Howell right now, and the kids did a good job of focusing on Howell, and they’ll do a good job (tonight).
“Every week is a one-week season,” he continued. “There’s no reason to look ahead or look behind. Just keep this week in front of us and keep moving.”
Metz, meanwhile, feels that records are meaningless in this rivalry.
“It’s more about Howell-Hartland than records and things like that,” he said. “After last week, our kids were able to change focus on Saturday morning and say it’s Howell-Hartland time. This is a big game to our kids.”
Tonight’s game is one of six home games for the Highlanders this season.
“There’s a comfort level at home,” Metz said. “We’ve had a lot of success (at Hartland), so there’s a certain comfort level, and we want a second chance at a home opener during the school year. I think we’ll have a bigger crowd by because the communities are so close. It should be a fun night.”
Hartland’s Reece Potter concurs.
“It should be fun playing them again,” he said. “It’s always a big crowd, and it’s always fun to play in front of them.”
Sussalla claimed he doesn’t like Hartland’s field, pronouncing it “terrible,” but was more generous when asked about the Eagles.
“They’ve had a tough schedule,” he said. “We can’t underestimate them. They’ve got some athletes.”
Asked if his team might be turning the corner this week, Hartland’s Nico Candela siad, “I think we can. (Howell) is a good team, but I think we can play a lot better than we have been. Spirits are high. We believe we can beat them.”